What is ePHI?
Electronic protected health information (ePHI) is any PHI that is created, stored, transmitted, or received electronically. The HIPAA Security Rule has specific guidelines in place that dictate the means involved in assessing ePHI.
Media used to store data, including:
- Personal computers with internal hard drives used at work, home, or while traveling
- External portable hard drives
- Magnetic tape
- Removable storage devices, including USB drives, CDs, DVDs, and SD cards
- Smartphones and PDAs
Means of transmitting data via wi-fi, Ethernet, modem, DSL, or cable network connections including:
PHI and HIPAA
The HIPAA Privacy Rule provides federal protections for PHI that’s held by Covered Entities (CEs) and gives patients rights over that information, as well as guidance for healthcare organizations regarding how to protect PHI. The Privacy Rule allows PHI to be disclosed as a result of patient care, but has strict guidelines in place for maintaining the integrity and security of that information while it’s being stored or otherwise processed. There are specific measures within the Rule that require comprehensive administrative, physical, and technical safeguards to ensure the confidentiality, integrity, and security of PHI is being properly maintained.
Safeguards are critical when dealing with protected health information (PHI). There are several measures that organizations must take to ensure the confidentiality, integrity, and availability of PHI. One of the most essential safeguards is encryption. Encryption ensures that only authorized personnel can access PHI using a password of other security measures.
Other safeguards include:
- Antivirus Software
- Intrusion Detection System
- Regular Backups
Limiting access to PHI is equally essential. Organizations should restrict access to only those employees who need it to perform their duties. Access controls should be in place to prevent unauthorized access and use of PHI. Additionally, organizations should have policies and procedures in place for granting and revoking access rights based on job responsibilities.
Proper handling of PHI is also extremely crucial. Employees should be trained on how to handle PHI securely, both in hard copy and electronic formats. This includes guidelines on how to create strong passwords and how to report data breaches promptly. Regular training sessions help reinforce these practices and keep employees updated with the best practices.
HIPAA Data Storage, Cloud Storage, and ePHI
It’s important to note that HIPAA regulation treats HIPAA data storage companies as Business Associates (BAs). The regulation accounts for the storage of physical and digital data, meaning that cloud storage services qualify as BAs even if the organization rarely, randomly, or never accesses or views the ePHI that they store.